Friday, January 18, 2013

Moving to newspaper nirvana

By S. Derrickson Moore LAS CRUCES — For someone who’s done a lot of moving, I’ve never quite gotten it down to a science, but this time, I’m rested, ready … and eager. Generally, I hate moving, almost as much as I love Las Cruces. I resolved to settle down and roam no more, once I’d found my querencia, that place on the planet where one’s soul feels at home. I’ve now been here almost two decades, longer than I’ve ever lived in one city before, but that didn’t mean an end to the moving, alas. I was content to stay long-term in the same job and household. But premises seemed to have their own rambling determination to keep moving on their own, something I might have expected in my previous homes in earthquake, volcanic and hurricane zones, but not here. I started out in a cute apartment complex on Madrid. From there, I landed in a house in Picacho Hills with a great view and a resident roadrunner in the eaves. My landlady and then-colleague Verlaine Davies was in a rambling mode back then, and my tenancy involved four moves — between two wings of the Picacho house, and then, to two duplexes in Las Alturas. I decided it was time to buy my own semi-adobe abode, and there I have remained since 1999, though the neighborhood has changed around me, as fave neighbors have moved in and out and vacant lots have filled in with new homes and a sprawling apartment complex. I thought the Las Cruces Sun-News would be a counterbalancing constant. Journalists are an itinerant lot, and I’ve seen a lot of employees and editors and managers and publishers come and go, and even the paper’s ownership has changed a couple of times. But the building remained the same. Every few years, brave but ineffectual spruce-ups were attempted. Technological advances were more successful. When I moved in, in 1994, we had serviceable computers, but no e-mail or reliable Internet access. We had a whole department waxing and pasting the components of the daily paper and another large department printing the paper and putting the news and advertising inserts together. Eventually, we began to edit copy and lay out pages online. The roaring presses moved out and the building seemed very quiet. But we never felt alone. In fact, we sometimes joked that the old Safeway building was a kind of urban wildlife preserve. In the years when I started work at 5 a.m., there was a cute little burrowing owl who, like my resident Picacho Hills roadrunner, grumbled at me for disturbing his sleep every morning. (Despite their early-riser reps, I’ve irked a lot of birds for being earlier-than-thou.) None of us — or the professional exterminators — were able to terminally daunt a coven of bats, and cucarachas that somehow survived an onslaught of pesticides to thrive and prosper. Every now and again, a mouse would be spotted, scurrying across the newsroom, trying to make some kind of important rodent deadline, we presumed. Sometimes, we’d spot a raven, a sparrow or a neighborhood dog or cat who’d found a way into the echoing expanses of the deserted room where the presses once roared. Things have been much tamer in our interim, post-fire headquarters for the last two years, first in the Ramada Palms ballrooms and most recently on Idaho Avenue. But soon, we’ll make the ultimate move, to media nirvana: a state-of-the-art new building with actual windows, skylights and Organ Mountain views. We’ll have studios and community meeting places where we’ll have more space and tools to tell your stories, online and in print. And best of all, we’ll be back in my favorite ‘hood, which has also changed remarkably in the past two decades — and what’s more, for the better. I feel very fortunate in 2013, heading back to my neighborhood, in the corazon of my querencia. S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore

Balloon joys? Count the ways

By S. Derrickson Moore LAS CRUCES — Is there a person with soul so jaded that he or she could not be moved by the sight of a big, beautiful hot-air balloon? Or better yet, a whole bunch of ’em? I’m easy. I can still get a thrill from a few little bright red helium balloons going rogue and making a break for it. I’ve felt that way since I was a small child. Even when the lost balloons were my own, I couldn’t help but feel the loss was worth the sight of those Technicolor orbs flying high into the sky. What could be a more apt symbol of one of my favorite things: Freedom incarnate. I’m not alone, by the way. A little balloon is one of the few romantic or child-pleasing gestures you can still make for a few bucks (or a few cents, if you go for the plain, non-helium varieties). I suspect there are quite a few of us, ages newborn through great-grandmom, who would be just as pleased to get a balloon as a single rose, and a balloon bouquet just might trump a pricey pot of orchids or an elaborate flower arrangement. Plus, you don’t have to change the water, nurture and cultivate, or deal with the disposal of the depressing and sometimes smelly and messy remains. A good balloon goes out with a bang (exciting!) or deflates quietly and modestly. If it’s a mortal puncture wound, you can simply toss it in the recycling bin: no muss, no fuss. Or, depending on the balloon, you might successfully inflate it again later. (Balloon resurrection! Talk about inspiring symbolism.) If a mere toy balloon can drive me to hyperbolic descriptives like “soul-soaring,” you can imagine my reaction when I landed at prime time in the hot-air balloon capital of the world. My first visit to New Mexico, a business trip, involved a connecting flight in Albuquerque, during, as it happened, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. “Coincidence or synchonicity?” I mused, as I watched hundreds of big, beautiful balloons drift over the horizon. I took it personally. It might take me awhile, I decided, but I knew I was destined to live in the enchanted land that welcomed me with such a display. Strangely enough, when I finally relocated to northern New Mexico, I went for two years without seeing a single balloon. That all changed when I at last identified my true querencia and moved to Las Cruces. Random hot air balloons seemed to float overhead wherever I ventured my first few weeks. It felt a little like I was being followed, but not the creepy, stalking thing. It was more like kind attention from artistic guardian angels. Before long, I’d been invited on my first balloon adventure, a breathtakingly beautiful float over White Sands, followed by the traditional Champagne initiation rites and some thrilling sagebrush truck crew chases that pretty much did in my new suede boots. It was worth it. Since then, I‘ve become a fan of all the big balloon events, from Albuquerque’s Fiesta to the Elephant Butte Balloon Regatta to the White Sands Balloon Invitational and our own rambling Mesilla Valley Balloon Rally (and sometimes “Non-Rally” and “Fly-in”). I’m hoping it’s officially back in 2014. In the meantime, you have to love an event that gets canceled — and up to 20 balloons show up anyway. We hope that’s happened again this weekend. Keep looking up. You could be thrilled, too. And if someone invites you to go up, up and away in their beautiful balloon, do yourself a big favor. Say “Yes!” S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore.

Legacy of Senseless Violence

By S. Derrickson Moore LAS CRUCES — Most of us like the idea of starting the new year with a clean slate, especially in a year with so much December bad news. The planet is still here, but for too many, the world as we knew it did end. And for many, many more — the “survivors” — life will never be quite the same. They will adjust, and begin to heal, and the agonizing pain will gradually ease. There will even be moments of joy again. The fortunate will find the grace, the relief, perhaps, of forgiveness, or the occupation of service or some way of building something new, of reaching outward. But they will not forget. I am always touched by the hopeful headlines and thought pieces (usually crafted by very young journalists and counselors) that offer something like, “ways to help children make sense of violent tragedies.” We old hands know that this is an impossible task. Sometimes, you can trace warnings and omens, and you can search for helpful coping mechanisms, and tales of heroism and survival. But you’ll never make “sense” of mass shootings by madmen. That’s why we call it “senseless” violence. Those closest to ground zeros, and their loved ones, will always be hit the hardest. A lifelong indelible imprint is left by close proximity to terror: a sensory tattoo that glows neon with each new assault, a scar that never quite heals and aches when fresh violence is in the air. I was reminded of all this in a holiday terror season that started before the Sandy Hook tragedy. A long-time best friend called from Oregon to tell me about finding herself close to the shooter who opened fire at the Clackamas Town Center Mall on Dec. 11, killing two and seriously wounding a third before killing himself. By week’s end, the incident seemed to have nearly vanished from the mass media, lost in the greater numbers and horrors of the elementary school massacre, adding to the surreal stress of conversations with my traumatized friend, trying to navigate the traumas of her own experience. I listened as she relived the angst of trying to find her companions at the mall (a place we’d helped start a new library together in happier days). She tried to convey the sound of the shots, repeated again and again in staccato bursts in her mind, as she tried to describe her shouted warnings, her fall and attempts to get up, as crowds stampeded outside. I listened and reassured her that she had done all she could, and maybe a bit more, as a senior citizen who had taken a bad fall in a crisis. She and her friends were not among the shooting victims, and finally managed to find one another after leaving the mall. But a kind of survivor’s guilt seemed to persist. There was nothing post-traumatic about the syndrome that plagued so many of us that week. When the firefighters were shot in a crazed arsonist’s lair, all of us worried about the brave first responders we know and love, and my thoughts instantly lurched to the maimed face of a beloved family friend, shot in the line of duty, half a century ago. My visiting soulmate talked about the day when a graduate student in his quiet university town killed four members of the faculty and one student, and seriously wounded another student, before committing suicide. It was over 20 years ago, and might have been yesterday. I thought of my grandson, who in 2011 lost two very good friends, two talented teens, shot by their father, previously thought to be a loving pillar of the community. I knew without asking that Alex and his mom, Shannon, a close friend of the lost boys’ surviving mom, would be feeling a fresh ache for a senseless loss. I thought about the time we reached Borderland critical mass in the Juarez murders, when all of us personally knew at least one, and sometimes several, innocent victims who have been gunned down. And I wondered, when will we finally reach the time when we will change our lives and attitudes, as our lives have been forever changed? When will that echoing gunfire inspire a real transformation? And I pray it will be soon. S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at 575-541-5450. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore.